Backstory: Apples make for a delicious holiday memory

* Backstory is a blog that allows Herald reporters and photographers to share the story behind the stories and photos that are published in The Herald.

Herald City Editor

Most of the people I talked to about the annual Christmas party for children put on by the Jasper American Legion and Auxiliary on Sunday mentioned the sacks of goodies that Santa hands out to each attending boy and girl at the end of the gathering. More people mentioned the goody bags than mentioned Santa himself.

I vaguely remember, from the late 1960s, the chocolate candy bars awaiting in the plain brown paper sacks. I know there was Cracker Jack. But the fruit I recall in detail. Specifically, those Red Delicious apples. In fact, I’ve never forgotten them.

I grew up on a farm on the Jasper-Dubois Road (it was part of a sprawling Rural Route 4 then) and our fresh apples were limited to what grew on a few trees in the pasture each summer and fall. Some evenings after supper my siblings and I would pick up apples from the ground for my mother to use for cooking and canning.

Some of the small mottled yellow apples and red Winesaps were good ones, or substantially good, and could be bitten into without having to dig out any bad spots with a paring knife first.
But most had some soft brown spots. “Waste not, want not” was my mom’s motto, so if even some of an apple was salvageable, into a bucket the fruit went. It didn’t take much to be good enough for baking or converting into applesauce.

At home, the apples were sorted, and the buckets of the best (a relative term) stayed in our summer kitchen well into November until mom got them all “worked up,” the farm wife’s term for processed.

So I couldn’t believe it when the bag of goodies Santa gave me had a perfect, dark red, shiny apple in it. (I didn’t realize until last week that an auxiliary member likely polished it.) It was a kind of apple I didn’t know. Even its shape, resembling a molar tooth, differed from the round varieties with which I was familiar. And its delightful aroma, sweet and as crisp as the winter air, enveloped me.

As an adult, Red Delicious apples always have said “Christmas” to me. That aroma is as much a part of my holiday as any gift-giving tradition or decorated evergreen. (The scent of cedar that I find so pleasing also took root in my childhood, on a cold day right before Christmas when my dad took an ax into the woods and returned with a glorious green pyramid with a trunk just crooked enough to cause fits when trying to get it stable in the treestand.) Though today I could buy a Red Delicious apple off the grocer’s shelf any day of the year, I generally pick up a Granny Smith or McIntosh instead. I largely reserve that Red Delicious treat for December, that month some decades ago when the kindly St. Nick, and the American Legion, first introduced me to it.

Contact Martha Rasche at

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